Ron Perlman Interview, Hellboy The Golden Army

Posted by: Sheila Roberts
Bigger muscles, badder weapons and more ungodly villains arrive in an epic vision. We chat with Ron Perlman star of Hellboy 2! With a signature blend of action, humor and character-based spectacle, the saga of the world’s toughest, kitten-loving hero continues to unfold in Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

After an ancient truce existing between humankind and the invisible realm of the fantastic is broken, hell on Earth is ready to erupt. A ruthless leader who treads the world above and the one below defies his bloodline and awakens an unstoppable army of creatures. Now, it’s up to the planet’s toughest, roughest superhero to battle the merciless dictator and his marauders. He may be red. He may be horned. He may be misunderstood. But when you need the job done right, it’s time to call in Hellboy (Ron Perlman).

Along with his expanding team in the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense—pyrokinetic girlfriend Liz (Selma Blair), aquatic empath Abe (Doug Jones) and protoplasmic mystic Johann—the BPRD will travel between the surface strata and the unseen magical one, where creatures of fantasy become corporeal. And Hellboy, a creature of two worlds who’s accepted by neither, must choose between the life he knows and an unknown destiny that beckons him.

Ron Perlman’s creative collaboration with Guillermo del Toro began with the director’s first film, Cronos, in 1993. The actor and director reunited nine years later for Blade II. In 2004, del Toro achieved a long-standing goal and cast Perlman as the title character in Hellboy.

Ron Perlman is a fabulous guy and we really appreciated his time. The award-winning actor has built an intriguing body of work in film, television and theater over nearly three decades. Here’s what he had to tell us about his new movie:

MoviesOnline: I love the way you underplay this role. How did you decide how to play the character, from the comic books?

RON PERLMAN: The screenplay for Hellboy I, first of all I couldn’t believe how well articulated Guillermo’s feel for growing up in New Jersey and being a by-product of a completely cynical environment, which is what the East Coast, the tri-state area, is, and the idiomatic sound of a guy who grows up in that, it sounds like it’s me the whole movie making this shit up, but every single line that I said was scripted by him. It was almost miraculous, especially for a guy who, you know, English is clearly his second language. It’s so there, it’s so fully arrived and fully developed complete with idiosyncratic behavior, and so evocative of what this guy’s persona is behaviorally, that there is no reason to want to do anything extra with it. You just say it and get out of its way, and let it resonate into the universe.

MoviesOnline: What did you feel you were able to do with Hellboy in a second film, now that the character is established and you know what he’s about and he’s got a relationship now?

RON PERLMAN: Yeah, it’s very much the same guy except this time we’re seeing him circumstantially in a highly emotionally compromised state because the relationship with Liz is on the rocks and perhaps in danger of burning up, pardon the pun, right in front of him, and he’s faced with the idea of life without Liz, and so he’s emotionally really compromised. And of course he does what Hellboy will do when he’s not sure whether he has a reason to live or not. He starts drinking heavily, and meanwhile parenthetically he’s got to go save the Earth from complete extinction while he’s buzzed.

MoviesOnline: How much fun was that scene, singing with Abe?

RON PERLMAN: That whole sequence, by the way, from the time she decides that she can never really own him because he wants the love of the world, by the way that’s a nuance that only I think Guillermo del Toro is that acutely aware of. He’s such a great husband, he’s so in tune with the dynamic of men and women interacting and all of the pitfalls. From that point, all the way through the beginning of the fight with the prince in the library, which includes our musical segue, I think that’s got to be my favorite little aria in our opera. And then the Barry Manilow moment is far and away my favorite moment. It was certainly everyone’s favorite day of the whole six-and-a-half-month shoot. We couldn’t shoot that enough. He didn’t change angles nearly as many times as I would have liked. The more we did that, the happier everybody got. It was almost like wrap party happiness. The good news is, I liked it every bit as much when I finally saw it Saturday night at the premiere, which is the first time I’ve ever seen it play, as I did when I was doing it.

MoviesOnline: Selma said that between takes you and Jeffrey Tambor were singing show tunes and Frank Sinatra.

RON PERLMAN: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I’m gay or anything [laughs]. A couple of show tunes, you know, what are you trying to say? Not that there’s anything wrong with that, not that there’s anything wrong with being gay by the way. It doesn’t happen to be the way I float.

MoviesOnline: How difficult was it to do a scene through the prosthetics and the make up and how long did it take to get into that?

RON PERLMAN: I don’t think the prosthetics or the make up – every job comes with its own sort of substructure of problems and obstacles, and in this case there’s a three and a half to six hour prep time in order to get ready to go on the stage and work, but once it was on, once we were on the set, aside from maybe sometimes being hotter than everybody else was in August and warmer than everybody else was in November, it didn’t alter anything. It was basically just the uniform, the look that made up the guy. There always is one, even if it’s wearing nothing at all, that’s still the costume. So I don’t think it really changed anything. I will tell you that when they finally zip up the last zipper, and tie up the last shoelace, and I start walking to the set, it’s like that last – what’s that line in Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever, in the second one?

MoviesOnline: I’m going to strut now?

RON PERLMAN: Yeah, there’s a strut that I don’t have in real life, and that’s all given to how evocative the whole costume and make up is. I pretty much feel indomitable.

MoviesOnline: You do a lot of hanging off of buildings and jumping on cars. Is a lot of that really you on cables?

RON PERLMAN: Whenever it’s safe and he wants to get a good character reaction shot, it’s me. Having said that, they kept me able to fight another day. It was really important to make sure that I didn’t do anything too stupid, and too compromising and too unsafe, because after all I’m not equipped to handle myself in situations like that.

MoviesOnline: What was your reaction when you saw the final shot in the film?

RON PERLMAN: When I saw the final shot? Oh the final shot of the film.

MoviesOnline: Did you know that it was going to be that big a freeze frame of just you?

RON PERLMAN: No, I didn’t know it was going to be a freeze frame. In fact Saturday night was pretty revelatory for me in so many different ways. First of all, when you finally see a movie in real time, all cut together and finished, you either live up to the potential of what was already there, if it’s really good, or sometimes surpass what you thought was kind of, I hope we can find a way to make this work. The playing of a film is kind of like a living, breathing organism, and you never know by the sum of its parts whether it’s going to be a good living, breathing organism, something that works, something that’s affecting, because you shoot these things in such a piecemeal fashion, but does it add up, will it play, how is it in juxtaposition to one another. And I was thrilled on Saturday night when I finally saw it. There are so many great choices that were made in terms of after all was said and done in the shooting of it, in the post-production, there were so many great, great, beautiful additions. Danny Elfman’s music is sumptuous and so happy and so full of mood and so reflective of what Guillermo had in his heart when he wrote the piece. I was just thrilled with so many things, that freeze frame at the end, I didn’t know that that was how he was going to play it or end it. Yeah, I’m a real happy camper right now.

MoviesOnline: What was one of your favorite creatures or creations that Guillermo made when you walked into the troll scene?

RON PERLMAN: That fish guy, I couldn’t stop looking at him. In fact I had fish for lunch that day. I think probably in the whole movie the thing I marveled at most was the Angel of Death. That was just [a] tremendous design and execution and the great imagination of Guillermo del Toro in full bloom, and then the fact that it was Doug playing him was the bonus.

MoviesOnline: It’s amazing how he goes from character to character.

RON PERLMAN: Yeah, he’s the Peter Sellers of our day; because that’s the last guy I know that played multiple roles in movies.

MoviesOnline: Guillermo readily admits there will be a third Hellboy four years or so after he’s done with The Hobbit. Do you see yourself returning to this role in four years?

RON PERLMAN: Let me see, I’ll be … It’s be four years before he begins pre-production, which means by the time we shoot it, five, maybe six. Are you a praying man? If you are and you want to see a third movie with me in it, then you better pray. I pray everyday that I have the strength to just get through today, much less what’s going to happen when I’m 63.

MoviesOnline: How was the fight sequence with Luke Goss?

RON PERLMAN: It was dazzling. I think Brad Allan, our new stunt coordinator, was a phenomenal addition to the second film. He spent 14 years working under Jackie Chan and that whole Hong Kong opera approach to fighting and especially for the purposes of cinema. He just brought all these beautifully imaginative elements to the fight scenes and he’s a great fight choreographer. I thought the two big fights between the Prince and Hellboy couldn’t be better. [They were] really truly dazzling and worthy of the moment that they occur in the movie.

MoviesOnline: How long did it take you to learn the fight sequence? Did you have to train?

RON PERLMAN: The fights? I spent most of them in an arm chair. I didn’t have to learn anything. I was just there eating popcorn. “Ron?” “Yes.”

MoviesOnline: He got thrown about a bit?

RON PERLMAN: I get thrown about a bit but the question was, was it really me? Seamless though, wasn’t it? It looked like it was me. Yeah, it was me.

MoviesOnline: What sort of challenges does a sequel bring to working on a project, if any?

RON PERLMAN: The challenges were the scope of what Guillermo was trying to do in this. I think there was a huge amount of empowerment that took place by the whole Pan’s Labyrinth experience. I think he truly, finally came to terms with the possibilities of cinema and now refuses to settle for anything less than exactly what it is he wants to do, that he can think of and that he thinks is cool and worthy of shooting. So it was challenging because it was just bigger and more complicated and more unwieldy in certain instances and our hours were really long. The time we spent shooting a scene was far longer. I don’t think that that had anything to do with a sequel. I just think that was trying to realize this unbelievably epic world that Guillermo was depicting.

MoviesOnline: When you were a kid, were there any fantasy creatures or supernatural things or a special character that you read about that you really enjoyed?

RON PERLMAN: Of all the things I read, I think 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was probably the thing that had the most impact on me. I was a big fan of Jack London’s when I was a kid. I wasn’t much of a comic book guy and I certainly wasn’t drawn to science fiction literature very much, but those two things really stand out in my mind literature-wise.

MoviesOnline: What else are you working on?

RON PERLMAN: I just finished two films back to back. One called The Job which is based on a play that played here in Los Angeles written by Shem Bitterman. It’s a low budget film but really great writing and maybe one of the most theatrical performances I’ve ever had the opportunity to give. And then right after that, I’m in a movie called Bunraku which we just shot in Romania which is a very stylized, post-apocalyptic look at man’s inclination to be violent and brutal.

MoviesOnline: And what do you play in that?

RON PERLMAN: I play the most violent and brutal man in that movie. And prior to that, I did this thing called Mutant Chronicles which we’re trying to get to the marketplace. In fact, we’re going to have a screening of it at Comic-Con and allow the fans to have their input as to what the movie does well and what it needs work on. If you keep checking it out, it’s going to be the 26th of July. It’s either a midnight screening or 10 o’clock at night. I don’t know the venue yet.

MoviesOnline: You’re soliciting input from the fans?

RON PERLMAN: We’re soliciting input from everybody who’s a fan of movies.

MoviesOnline: Will you be going to Comic-Con?

RON PERLMAN: I’ll be going to Comic-Con. It’s being hosted by Thomas Jane and myself, the two co-stars of the film. We both love this guy names Simon Hunter and we think that the movie is really, really good. The distribution world right now is hobbling along, so where this picture might have probably gotten easily distributed two or three years ago, right now everybody is careful with their money. We’re trying to build up a fan base for the movie from the ground up.

MoviesOnline: Is there a website?

RON PERLMAN: Probably (

MoviesOnline: What else are you doing?

RON PERLMAN: I’m shooting a TV series right now. We’re on the second episode and we’ve got 13 on the air. It’s for FX. It’s called The Sons of Anarchy and it’s about a motorcycle club, a bunch of badass miscreants.

MoviesOnline: Will you be at the TCA’s next week?

RON PERLMAN: I think we are. Tuesday morning at 10 o’clock.

MoviesOnline: How much fun was it doing those bickering scenes with Selma? It looked like you had to take your head out of ‘I’m a guy in a big red suit’ to ‘I’m a husband that’s having trouble talking with the wife.’ Was it more fun than the stunts?

RON PERLMAN: Yeah, that to me is where the real fun is, the character stuff, the idiosyncratic nature of who these people are. I mean you could hardly call them people, but for the benefit of our conversation, we’ll call them people. And what price they have to pay. Even though they’re freaks and superheroes, etc., etc., everybody is going to have to get over the speed bumps of the day and there’s going to be plenty of them. When you love somebody, it ain’t all just a bed of roses and I think what’s great about Guillermo is that he’s more than willing to take what he knows about that subject and explore it on the screen. I’ve been married – 27 years of marriage, 32 years together – so I have something to draw from.

MoviesOnline: Was Guillermo’s wife ever on the set for those scenes?

RON PERLMAN: She was on the set a lot. I can’t remember who was on the scene like that.

MoviesOnline: Is it hard to craft those human moments when there aren’t really any human beings on the screen?

RON PERLMAN: You mean the green screen stuff?

MoviesOnline: No, I mean when you try to have a relationship discussion between a fish man and a demon spawn, is it tough to make those moments feel real with all of the comic booky, paranormal stuff going on in the scene?

RON PERLMAN: Well, you know, if you ascribe to Guillermo’s way of thinking which I do, the monsters are more human than the humans. When I look at Abe Sapien, I just see the heart of the guy. I just see the heart of this beautiful being. I don’t see the outer trappings and I guess that’s sort of the point in all this. It’s so easy to do because the humanity of a core group of people – Abe and Liz and Hellboy – and then even by the end of this film, Johann comes around to saying, ‘Maybe I don’t have to do everything by the book. Maybe I don’t have to be a glasshole’ as I call him in the movie. There’s a huge amount of humanity and that’s what we’re all drawing off of when we have to play these scenes.

MoviesOnline: Was the humor something that attracted you to this role?

RON PERLMAN: It’s everything. To me, far and away the most attractive aspect of Hellboy is the fact that he doesn’t take anything seriously. He’s kind of like the Dean Martin of superheroes. If you’re a fan of Dean Martin, he actually says in his nightclub act ‘I don’t take nothing serious’ which is why everybody loved Dino so much, because he managed to find the absurdity and the lack of reverence for absolutely every subject in the book including just living his life. He was never drunk but he acted like he was constantly swimming against the tide. We love that guy because he managed to take the most serious thing and find the unbearable lightness of it.

“Hell II: The Golden Army” opens in theaters on July 11, 2008.


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